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Ncstate:Living at NC State

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H O M E
Preparing for the US
Before you leave
Packing your Bags
Traveling to the US
Arriving at NC State
Living at NC State
Finances
Academics
Questions?
Checklist
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US Survival Tips

The US is quite unique and as a result, a lot of things are done differently here. Switches switch the other way, the temperature is in the 80s on a good day, the doors open the other way, the list goes on. It will take you some time but you'll get used to it.

http://www.uq.net.au/~zzdonsi/us_tips.html

Weather

The weather in Raleigh is one of the nicest in the US. It does not get very cold in the winter and only snows once or twice (or not at all like this year). You can find out the latest weather and weather trends here.

It does tend to get hot over the summer and you should be prepared for that when you arrive. In 2005, we had record warm weather. It is at this time that you're usually out and about searching for apartments, visiting the various departments etc so bring comfortable clothes. There is no 'rainy season' and it can rain at any time - bring a rain jacket and a sturdy umbrella or two. In the winter you will need a winter jacket. See the clothing section for details.

The University in Winter
Raleigh gets ready for a mother of a thunderstorm

Accomodation

Champion Court Apt. Complex in the Fall

Though there is a variety of off-campus accomodation near the NC State campus, the ones most frequently used by incoming Indian students are:

The links above provide details about the kind of accomodation you have on offer, including facilities and blueprints. Other options are also reviewed at www.ncsuliving.com, including a map.

Please view this information in conjunction with the excellent information at : http://www.ncsu.edu/stud_orgs/maitri/housing.htm

Here is a website that shows a map with current NCSU Apartments listings.


The cost of living in Raleigh is quite reasonable as compared to major cities in the US. Most Indian graduate students stay in apartment complexes on Avent Ferry Road or Gorman Street. Rents range from a high of $750/month to a low of around $500/month for the house.


There is a wide range of housing options available. The factors to be considered while choosing an apartment in one of these complexes are

  • Proximity to the campus
  • Proximity to the Avent Ferry Center computer labs - open to all students 24/7 and where you'll hang out a lot before you buy a computer
  • Monthly rent
  • Bus routes serving the apartment complex
  • Water costs included in the rent
  • Free high speed internet
  • Washer/Dryer included in the apartment itself or a common one for the complex
  • Proximity to Food Lion (our main grocery store), other stores and eating places - Burger King, Quiznos, Bruegger's Bagels, China Queen, Kerr's Drug Store

Another factor many people take into consideration is where people from their own batch are going to stay. This is for the simple reason that many of the newcomers take up many common courses during the first semester here and staying close by comes in handy while studying.

There are chiefly two kind of houses available.

  1. Townhouses - These are single storied houses, typically with kitchen and living room on the ground floor and bedrooms on the first floor.
  2. Apartments - These are the same as in India, typically with 2-3 bedrooms per apartment.

Students generally prefer to stay with roommates for a variety of reasons, saving money and company being the primary ones. The number of roommates per house depends on the number of bedrooms available and the willingness of the roommates to share a room. However, a typical house will have 4 roommates sharing two bedrooms and splitting the rent equally.

Roommates

These are the people you'll probably see the most of. It is essential that you get along and can work and play in relative harmony. Choosing compatible roommates will make studying easier and your life at NC State much more enjoyable and memorable.

Some things to remember :-

  • Friends do not always make good roommates.
  • If you are going to share a room, you need to consider a person's sleeping habits and cleaning habits.
  • Are your work and study schedules compatible? Will one of you be sleeping while the other is up and about making noise in the apartment?
  • Strongly consider cleaning habits. Both people may consider themselves messy. However, there is a difference between doing dishes every other day and doing dishes every other month.
  • Does the person smoke or drink ? If so, is it more or less than you can tolerate?
  • Does the person have any hobbies? There is big difference between stamp collecting and playing bhajans, especially if the person likes to do his hobby at 6 a.m.
  • Does the person have a "significant other" that may become a third roommate?
  • Does the person have friends that will spend a lot of time at your place?
  • Has the person had financial problems?
  • Do you have similar religious and political beliefs? If not, are both of you willing to keep your beliefs to yourself or enjoy a good friendly debate?
  • Finally, is the person nice and considerate? When differences arise, a courteous person is more likely to be willing to change.

Roommates Agreement

While some may consider an 'agreement' something very formal, it is beneficial for all room mates living together to decide upon and lay down ground rules of acceptable behaviour. Your roomate may not like taking out the garbage or cooking but if there is a turns system, he will ensure that s/he does it. If there is disagreement while setting up the rules, a simple vote should be able to decide. The following are items that could be included in a formal or informal agreement.

The advantage of having an agreement is that all the roommates are aware of what is acceptable and not acceptable in the house and agrees to be taken to task for things that he/she has agreed to.

Here are some issues that you should examine and decide.

Roommates Issues Agreement

Yard Sales

Yard Sale is a sale which people put up when they are moving out of their house and hence want to sell off all their stuff..U generally get stuff for very cheap prices at these yard sales..At these yard sales, u can get a "used" mattress for anywhere between $10-$50..U can get to know the time/location of these Yard Sales from notice boards, etc..

Just for the sake of newly coming International students, the International Bible Soceity in Raleigh has been organizing a Mega Yard sale every year, where u can manage to get quite a lot of stuff that u might need for "furnishing" ur home..u will get to know when/where this Mega Yard Sale will be after u come here...and to mitigate further questions on this topic: U will get couches, tables, chairs, mattresses, crockery, in this Yard Sale..I don't think anything else will be available there..

Safety Information

Crossing the Road

Those of us who have lived here for some time have been increasingly concerned about newcomers from India crossing the road in a dangerous fashion. Time and time again we have observed newcomers crossing one side of the road, waiting in the center lane and then crossing the rest of the street.

Lanes marked in green are turning lanes NOT traffic islands

Highlighted in the image in green, the center lane is not a traffic island for you to wait till the road becomes clear but is actually a left turning lane for traffic that needs to turn left at an intersection or somewhere along the road. Not only is it illegal to stand in these lanes it is downright dangerous. Fast moving traffic that needs to turn may be forced to move into the turning lanes after signalling and will run you over. A particularly dangerous area is the area near Avent Ferry Complex where traffic coming over the hill needs to turn into Mission Valley complex. Cars do not expect someone to be standing there. ONLY CROSS AT PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS AFTER PRESSING THE CROSSING BUTTON AND WAITING FOR THE WALK SIGNAL. Failure to cross correctly is technically a punishable offence for jaywalking.

Another common mistake is the one to look right first when beginning to cross the road. This is an ingrained instinct learnt from crossing the road in India, but you must make it a conscious habit to LOOK LEFT BEFORE CROSSING and RIGHT AFTER THE MEDIAN. This is a hard habit to break but you must do it. As you also may have noticed, traffic here can turn right even on a red signal so be aware of traffic near you or for cars trying to speed up to cross the signal.

Just a few months ago, an Egyptian student lost his mother in a tragic accident while crossing Avent Ferry Road near the CAT bus stop (Avent Ferry and Centennial Pkwy.) We would certainly not like to see a repetition of this sad event.

Just by the fact that you have been admitted to NC State, we know you are smart guys and gals and we want you to be safe and avoid taking unnecessary risks. Please pass this message on to anyone you know would benefit and don't feel shy about telling a fellow student (incuding a senior) if you see them crossing incorrectly. Your words of advice could save their life.

Personal Safety while Walking

Safety at Home

Transportation

One of the great things about being a student at NC State is that for the most part you get free transport. The Wolfline is free and open to the public. Your student ID is all you need to travel on the CAT and TTA buses.

Around the Campus

The campus and surrounding areas is well served by NC State's own bus service - the Wolfline. The Wolfline runs regularly from 7 AM to 6 PM on weekdays. Wolfline does not run on weekends, mid-semester breaks and long weekends.

There is also a night-service, appropriately called Werewolf, which has two routes - A and B - covering most of the Main, Centennial and Vet School campuses. It runs until around 2 AM in the night, and runs on most weekends as well.

The Wolfline buses are equipped with GPS so that you can track where the buses are at any given time. This is really cool and saves you a lot of time and waiting.

NCSU Campus Map

Around Raleigh

The Wolfline will help you get around the areas surrounding the campus. If you decide to live on Avent Ferry Road, the Wolfline is very useful for those weekly trips to the local grocery store.

CAT (Capital Area Transit) is Raleigh's bus service white buses with orange stripes and connects most parts of the city reasonably well. All routes operate to (inbound) and from (outbound) the main city centre, and you will probably use the bus to go the nearest Walmart or malls in the area. CAT and Wolfline

In the Triangle Area

The Triangle Transit Authority (green buses) serve the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. There are two buses that students frequently use - one is the 301 from Western Blvd and the 105/107 from Hillsborough St.

Travel on the the TTA buses is FREE with your Student ID card.

For more details check the TTA link

Around the US

One of the best things you can do for fun in the US is travel. While it is true that most of America looks pretty homogenous - highways,houses, strip malls - there's always something to see in every city. Big cities have well-developed public transportation to help you get around.

Cities worth visiting :

  • New York, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Miami/Orlando, FL
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Los Angeles , CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Dallas, TX

Here are some travel options you can consider :-

  • By Air : Air ticket prices are not fixed but depend on demand, season and day of week. If you book well in advance you can get very cheap tickets e.g return fares to California as low as $235. It also helps to be flexible with your dates though that's not always possible when you have a fixed break. A good place to start looking for fares is Yahoo Travel which lets you be flexible with your dates and gives you the lowest fares for a given time period. It also looks up all the airlines and gives you the lowest fares based on the dates you have input. Other similar websites are :

These websites will allow you to pay by credit card and book your tickets. Note that these etickets are not easily refundable and if your plans change you may find yourself at a loss. Most airlines let you pick your choice of seats by logging in at the airline website with your reservation code and last name. 24 hours before travel you can log in and print your boarding pass to save time during check-in. Carry your passport and I-20 with you when you travel just in case it is asked for. Do not stow it in your checked luggage. Even on long domestic flights you will not be given much to eat beyond a Coke and a small bag of peanuts. If you are the kind that needs constant nourishment, buy something and take it on board.

  • By Train : The Amtrak passes through Raleigh and is a reasonable option for travel along the east coast. One train heads to New York every day and another towards Florida. Book your tickets online at Amtrak.com. Trains do run late - sometimes worse than even Indian railways! The Amtrak station is downtown at 320 West Cabarrus Street Raleigh, NC 27601
  • By Bus : The Greyhound bus service is a cost-effective way to travel short distances. The Greyhound visits many cities not served by air or rail and usually drops you downtown near a transport hub. You can book your tickets online at Greyhound.com. A word of warning : while the Greyhound service is generally efficient, the terminal can be a somewhat dangerous place. Travel in pairs or in a group as far as possible. The Greyhound terminal is downtown at 314 W Jones St Raleigh, NC 27603
  • By Car : What better way to see the US than from a car. With relatively cheap fuel you can drive pretty much anywhere with relative ease. Plot your route using Mapquest or Google Maps. Here are some highway driving tips and defensive driving tips. Understanding the seemingly complicated US highway system is made easy here

To/from the Airport

Its not easy to transit between the airport and the campus area, and this journey is easiest by car. If at any point you need to go to the airport after coming here, a cab will cost you $30.

However, from Monday to Saturday in the day you can still get to the airport using the (free) TTA service. You have to catch a bus 105/107 from Hillsborough Street opposite the Library or 301 (from Western Blvd) to the TTA Centre Terminus and then catch the aptly named no. 747 to the airport.

TTA

Rail Transportation

Currently Raleigh does not have any metropolitan transportation, though our campus has a railway line running right through it. In the near future(2008), under the Regional Transit Plan, rail links are planned to serve different points in the Triangle area and there will be an NCSU station.

http://www.ridetta.org/Regional_Rail/Overview/RegionalRailTrainsitSystemMap.htm

Places of Interest around NC State

Here are some places you could visit and how to get there using a CAT bus.

  • Crabtree Valley Mall : Catch a 4 (Rex Hospital Outbound) bus from Hillsborough Street at the stop opposite the library on Hillsborough and Gardner St. The bus indicator will say 'Rex Hospital Outbound'. The terminal stop is Crabtree Valley Mall and the bus heads back downtown after this. CVM is a great place to hangout, shop and get a bite to eat. It has most of the major stores (Sears, Belk, Circuit City, Sharper Image) etc. There is a large Circuit City across the street from CVM but it is hard to get to on foot as it involves crossing Glenwood Ave.
  • Downtown : Catch an 11 (Avent Ferry Inbound) from Avent Ferry Road or a 4 (Rex Hospital Inbound) from Hillsborough St (on the same side of the road as the library). Unlike the downtown's of major US cities, Raleigh has a small downtown with few tall buildings. Currently there is a major renovation is in progress, but there are some nice parks, restaurants and a few good pubs in the area. If you are the tourist type, then the State Capitol, Governer's mansion and NC Museum of History are nice places to visit. Downtown is also the home of the BTI Centre which is a huge auditorium for a lot of cultural events. The buses downtown terminate at Moore Square Street. There is the Exploris museum with the IMAX nearby. You will also need to visit downtown to get to Progress Energy to pay your electricity bill deposit and to pay your Bellsouth deposit for your landline (if you choose to get one)
  • Walmart : Catch a 4 (Rex Hospital Outbound) from Hillsborough St to Crabtree Valley Mall. Get off at CVM and catch a 6 (Townridge Shopping Centre Outbound). Get off at the terminal stop at Townridge Shopping Centre. You can't miss Walmart. Repeat after me - "Nothing is cheaper than Walmart for 95% of the things I'll buy". You'll get everything here from bath mats to chocolates for less than you would get them anywhere else. Walmart comes in two flavors - there's a Super Walmart (much bigger, more selection, grocery included) further down Glenwood Ave than Townridge Shopping Centre. For this you need to catch the Brier Creek Express (70E) from CVM. There are only a few of these 70E buses so check the CAT website for details and a timetable. There are plenty of other Walmart's in the area as well, so you can always scout for one that's most conveneint for you.
  • Sam's Club : Sam's Club is another of the Walmart family (Sam Walton is the founder). If it was possible, this is even cheaper than Walmart but it is a discount club store which means you need to purchase a membership for the year and have to buy in bulk. You really need a car to get here though the TTA 301 bus takes you here (though it takes a long time and its hard to describe where to get off the bus). Sam's Club is great for buying things you buy in large quantities like toilet tissue and kitchen tissue rolls.
  • The Indian Stores : There are many Indian grocery stores relatively close to the NCSU campus most of them being about 4-5 miles away. The recommended method for getting to these stores is to catch a ride with someone with a car. TTA Bus route 301 will take you to within a mile's walk to most Indian Grocery stores. This is really inconvenient if you plan to bring back a lot of groceries. Some of the more popular stores are listed below:
    • Around the World Market - 6715 Hillsborough St Raleigh, NC (919) 859-5403
    • Triangle Indian Market - 740 E Chatham St # A, Cary, NC (919) 380-0350
    • Patel Brothers - 1419 SE Maynard Rd, Cary, NC (919) 319-5661
    • India Bazaar - 123 E Chatham St Cary, NC (919) 461-1619


US Driving License & Cars

Getting a Driving Licence

Getting a Driver's Licence as early as possible is important for two reasons :

  • The earlier you get your license, the more time you can claim to have driven thus reducing your mandatory car insurance payments when you do buy a car. The time after obtaining a license when your insurance premiums will go down varies from company to company and is about 2-3 years.
  • Your licence serves as your only valid State ID for general proof of age and identity. This is especially useful when you are travelling domestically within the US. Your NCSU student ID card does not have this information and unless you want to carry your passport with you wherever you, a State ID is recommended. Such an ID is also required when entering a place which serves alcohol (bars, pubs, clubs, etc). It also serves as proof of age when purchasing alcohol and tobacco products, the legal ages for which are 21 and 18, respectivly, in North Carolina. There are also many places where you need to show a photo-ID to pay by Credit card, so all-in-all it's very advantageous to have one.

To get a driver's license you have to visit the DMV office in the Avent Ferry shopping complex (near Food Lion). There are two kinds of licenses :

  • A Learner's permit : Only a computer based test of 25 questions needs to be passed along with a vision and road signs recognition test. With this permit you need a permanent licence holder in the car with you when you drive. There are also restrictions on where and when you can drive. Consult the NC-DOT driver's handbook for more details. The following documents will be needed to apply for the learner's permit:
    • Passport and I-94
    • Social Security Card (Could also serve as your address proof)
    • Utility Bill (To serve as your address proof)
    • I-20 (The learner's permit will expire on the last date mentioned on your I-20)
  • A permanent licence : In addtion to a computer based test and a vision and road sign test required for a learner's permit, a driving test needs to be passed to get a permanent licence. Please note that it is possible to obtain a permanent license even if you don't have auto insurance. Such a permanent license is called a 'Fleet License' and would allow you to drive only rental cars. This license is a great idea if you plan to use your license only for the purpose of identification and/or for renting cars over the weekends or during breaks. However, if you decide to drive any other cars, then you need to obtain auto insurance and convert a 'Fleet License' to a full license.


Here are some helpful resources when studying for a learner's permit or driver's license.

Buying a Car

Buying a car can be quite a harrowing process especially if you are buying your first car here and do not have a license yet. Some of us have driven a car in India but driving here is quite different and takes a little getting used to.

Telephone(Landline) & Internet Connection

Landlines

BellSouth, now merged with AT&T, are the major providers of landline connections in the NCSU area. The cheapest plans cost around $25 a month, which allows you to call any Raleigh local number (starting with 919-) for free. There are separate plans for US-Canada and international calls, but they are expensive. Landlines are usually taken by students not interested in spending a lot of money immediately on cell phone plans. If all four in your home take this connection, it comes out to be one-fourth the cost of a cell-phone, but obviously there are disadvantages vis-=a-vis cell phone plans.

In the last year or so, VOIP has become popular with Skype and Yahoo offering services that allow you to talk PC-to-Phone very cheaply. Vongage is also a very good choice for home VOIP solutions.

Getting an Internet connection

There are two ways to go about it.

1. DSL: DSL services around the campus are mostly offered by Bell South. The problem (or not) with DSL is that you will require a wired land line in addition to get their service. AFAIK, the Basic service for a land telephone from BellSouth costs $16.75 per month and the DSL service would cost an extra $25(256Kbps) to $46.95 (6Mbps) service.

The contact numbers for BellSouth are: Phone Service (ordering) : 1.888.757.6500 High Speed Internet (DSL): 1.888.321.2375

2. Cable: Broadband Internet connection through cable is more simple and works out to be cheaper (in my opinion) and is faster than DSL (atlest here!). The major provider here is Time Warner's Road Runner Cable service. They have an promotional offer where you pay only $29.95 per month for the first six months of the service. They even offer Home Networking free (optional) wherein you get a free Wireless router with the connection and also USB wireless adapters for every desktop (maximum 2) in your house. Once the first six months are completed, you will be charged their regular fee of $44.95 a month. The average speed that you get on the Road Runner internet service is around 3.5Mbps

There is a work around for this for another 6 months. All you have to do is call Time Warner and tell them that you would like to switch to Earthlink's cable service (its a sister concern of Road Runner) which will give you another 6 months of Broadband internet connection at $29.95. The downside of switching to Earthlink is that they donot provide a wireless router with their service. They only provide a wired modem. For getting wirelss you will have to buy a wireless router of your own.

You can call Road Runner High Speed Online from Time Warner at : 1-866-489-2669 (1-866-4-TWC-NOW)


Last Modified by Sujit 03:17, 15 June 2006 (EDT)

Cell Phones

Here in the US, you cannot just buy a cellphone and then choose a talk plan like we do in India. On the contrary, you have to choose the talk plan and you get a phone free with that. When I say free, understand that you are in effect paying for your phone through some portion of the monthly plan. It's like instead of buying a new car, you commit to buying 40 litres of petrol every month for 2 years at Rs.20,000 a month and they give you a Maruti for "free".

There is no "negotiation" for the plan rate. Everyone on this plan pays the same thing. You also commit to this plan - starting it means you have to continue for 24 months at least paying the basic rate. Here's the plan most people get (Nation Rollover 450) :

Cingular Nation Rollover 450

450 implies you get 450 mins every month to make calls between 6am and 9pm. Any unused minutes are rolled over to the next month (hence Rollover). Cingular to Cingular is free at any time and roaming anywhere in the US has no additional charges (minutes are used up while roaming as if you were in your home area). If you call after 9pm but before 6am or anytime on the weekend, your minutes get taken out of another pool called the Nights & Weekends minutes which is usually 5000 minutes. This does not rollover.

When we say phones are "locked" it means that the phones that you get in the US are locked to a particular cellphone company like Cingular and will not work anywhere else in the US or India on a non-Cingular network if you put a non-Cingular SIM card inside. This is ostensibly to prevent you from reselling your phone after you've finished your 2 years and prefer continuing with that network. A lot of people throw their old phones into the garbage. However, as you may know there is a way of "unlocking" these phones through software.


Most students who need a cellphone connection here get a Cingular mobile connection. The cheapest rate plan is $39.95 a month with a two-year committment though some discount is available through the university. You do get a basic cellphone free with the plan. For the more advanced kinds you have to pay a premium. These cellphones are locked to Cingular and cannot be used with other networks without some tweaking.

If you have a relatively new GSM cellphone in India, it will work just fine here. The Nokia Travel Charger adapts to any voltage so you do not need a transformer. Bring a flat pin adaptor for your cellphone charger. US Mobile companies also modify the phone's software to make you connect to the website - you may accidently download tones, wallpapers,games and be charged. I find this tremendously annoying. It is also useful to have a "spare" should something happen to your phone or a battery should die or something.

Round pin to flat pin for cellphone chargers

Even though it sounds expensive (and it is), a cellphone is invaluable when job hunting and for keeping in touch with friends. For the basic flat rate of $39.95 plus taxes, you get 450 minutes anywhere in the US in the day. Calling any Cingular mobile in the US is always free and nights (after 9pm) and weekends are virtually free (maximum 5000 minutes). People don't SMS ('text' as it is called here) very much as SMS is relatively expensive. Unused minutes from your 450 minute quota rollover to the next month. Minutes over your current quota (450 + rolled over minutes) are charged.

If you are a group of friends, you can opt for a Family Plan which effectively lowers your monthly individual rate (and allowable minutes) and one person pays the bill for all the phones on the plan. Nights and Weekends are fully free in these plans (not 5000 mins max like in the individual plans).

Roaming has no extra charge (great!) and is automatically enabled. Calling from anywhere in the US where Cingular coverage exists effectively spends from your 450 minute quota. AFAIK there is no Nights and Weekends while roaming.

This is not a plug for Cingular - I'm just letting you know about the most popular cellphone provider here.

Entertainment

Raleigh is not a big city but there are still a lot of opportunities for entertainment.

Movies

There are three places you can watch English movies.

  1. Campus Cinema : We have our own cinema on campus itself at Witherspoon Hall. They show some pretty good movies but a lot of older stuff. Tickets for students are $1.50. http://www.ncsu.edu/cinema/
  2. Mission Valley Cinemas : On Avent Ferry Rd - expensive but they do have the latest movies. Tickets are around $5.50 if you show your NCSU ID. http://www.triangle.com/content/movies/theaters/Raleigh-Mission_Valley.html
  3. Blue Ridge Cinemas : A little far away from Campus near the local K-mart. The USP is that movies here are always $1.50 ! The movies are not always brand new though. http://www.carmike.com/showtimes/dsp_showtimesdetail.aspx?theatrenumber=076140

If you are big movie buff I'd recommend getting a DVD-by-mail system called Netflix. You pay around $10 a month to get DVDs through the mail which you can watch and return through the mail. You can choose which movies you get online. There are various schemes available. There are other providers of this service as well.

If you prefer browsing for your own movies, there is a Blockbuster store nearby in Mission Valley Shopping Complex, on Avent Ferry Road. This works on a membership system.

Galaxy cinema in the nearby town of Cary screens Hindi movies regularly. Regional language movies (mostly Tamil & Telugu) have special screenings. The cinema is best reached by car, but can also be reached by the TTA bus. Ticket prices can be anywhere between $7.50 to $12 depending on the movie.

Indian grocery stores in Cary also rent out DVDs of movies in many Indian languages. For Hindi and regional language movies there are a number of websites that stream movie content to you. The high speed internet here makes ALL things possible !

Restaurants

Other Entertainment

http://www.raleighnow.com

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